Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Universal Ethic-Convergences 3-African Traditions and Islam

16. In the African traditions, the fundamental reality is life itself. That is the most precious good, and the ideal of the man consists in living sheltered from the worries even up until old age, but above all in remaining, even after the death, a life force continually reinforced in and with one’s progeny. In fact, life is seen as a dramatic experience. The human being, a microcosm within macrocosm, lives intensely the drama of the confrontation between life and death. The mission which completes him, which ensures him the victory of life over death, orients and determines his entire ethical task. So man ought to identify, in the consequent ethical horizon, all the allies of life, to grapple them to his cause so as to ensure the actual survival which is simultaneously the victory of life. This is the deep meaning of the traditional African religions. The African ethic reveals itself as an anthropocentric and vibrant ethic: the desired acts are those susceptible of favoring openness to life, of preserving it, of protecting it, of developing or increasing the potential life of the community; these are the acts that are considered good. Those acts considered harmful to the life of the individuals or the community are judged as evil. The traditional African religions thus appear essentially anthropocentric, but careful observation united with reflection indicates that the place accorded to living man and the cult of the ancestors constitute an enclosure within the same boundaries. The traditional African religions reach their summit in God, source of the life, Creator of everything that exists.

17. Islam considers itself the restoration of the original natural religion. It sees in Mohammed the last prophet sent by God to lead definitively men again toward the right way of life. Mohammed however was preceded by others: "there is not a people but a warner has gone among them.”(12) Islam attributes to itself therefore a universal vocation and it addresses itself to all men who are considered "naturally" muslim. The Islamic law, indissolubly public, moral, and religious, is understood as a law given directly by God. The Muslim ethic is therefore fundamentally a morality of obedience. To do good means to obey the commandments; to do ill means to disobey them. Human reason intervenes to recognize the revealed character of the Law and to extract from it the concrete the legal implications. True, in the 9th century, the mu`tazilah or mutazilite school proclaimed the idea according to which "the good and the evil is in the thing itself," that is to say, some behaviors are good or bad in themselves, prior to the divine law commands them or forbids them. The mutazilites maintained that human beings could know through the use of reason what is good or bad. According to them, man knows spontaneously that injustice or lying is bad, and that it is obligatory to return a loan, to remove oneself from harm, or to show appreciation to one’s benefactors, the principal one of which is God. But the Ash’ari school or asharites, which are dominant in the Sunni orthodoxy, support a contrary theory. Proponents of occasionalism who do not recognize any consistency in nature, they advance the notion that only the positive revelation of God defines good and evil, the just and the unjust. Between the prescriptions of this divine positive law, may be found significant elements of the moral patrimony of humanity, and they bear significant relationship with the Decalogue.(13)

(12) Qur'an, sura 35, 24; cf. sura 13, 7. (Shakir, M. H, trans.)
(13) Qur'an, sura 17, 22-38: "Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "Ugh" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little. Your Lord knows best what is in your minds; if you are good, then He is surely Forgiving to those who turn (to Him) frequently. And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Shaitans and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And if you turn away from them to seek mercy from your Lord, which you hope for, speak to them a gentle word. And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. Surely your Lord makes plentiful the means of subsistence for whom He pleases and He straightens (them); surely He is ever Aware of, Seeing, His servants. And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong. And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an indecency and an evil way. And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly . . . . And draw not near to the property of the orphan except in a goodly way till he attains his maturity and fulfill the promise; surely (every) promise shall be questioned about. And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end. And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that. And do not go about in the land exultingly, for you cannot cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height. All this -- the evil of it -- is hateful in the sight of your Lord."

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